White Noise: News from Inside the Media Bubble
Keeping it green
Let’s face it, when it comes to environmental awareness, Greensboro and Guilford County have a little catching up to do. Guilford College and the local chapter of the Sierra Club have been doing good work, but in the population at large, environmental issues rank still well below concerns about the economy, racism, police or even traffic. Enter Greening Guilford, a new blog featuring news and commentary about the environment. It’s informative and well written, courtesy of News & Record reporter Morgan Josey Glover, and it brings me back to a time when I first moved to Greensboro from Austin, Texas and realized that I’d have to give up my car-free lifestyle. Greening Guilford fills a welcome niche in a blogosphere known more for sniping than constructive conversation.
Dancing about architecture
In the Triad, we don’t much get into sniping wars about which media outlet does the best job of covering the local music scene. Maybe that’s because the News & Record’s weekly arts and entertainment supplement, Go Triad, pays close attention to local music. Besides, most bands harbor few illusions that one favorable write-up is going to make the difference between success and failure. The state of affairs is a little different in the Triangle. With a nationally recognized music scene replete with a handful of record labels, and with the state’s most respected daily newspaper and a storied alternative weekly in play, perhaps the stakes are higher. Witness this Jan. 23 broadside entitled “Thou anointed my head with oil!” from Independent Weekly music writer Grayson Currin against his counterpart at the Raleigh News & Observer, David Menconi and his “Great 8” feature on worthy local bands. “It’s the chosen-few perspective from the Great 8, juxtaposed with the newspaper’s near-complete avoidance of the scene from which those bands were pulled during the rest of the calendar year, that is most damaging,” Currin complains. “Most Triangle bands go completely unnoticed, while some (their friends, no less) are anointed in stylized featurettes.” The piece generated a rich discussion in its comment thread, with readers aligning with Menconi or Currin, or expressing gratitude to both for their work. Goner keyboardist Scott Phillips suggests the fault line has more to do with the expectations of readership than either newspapers’ relative commitment to local music. “Every time I hear the complaint about paltry local coverage in the N&O, my first reaction is mental cultural polarization,” he writes. “On one side you have your mainstreamers – folks whose main outlets for new music news include commercial radio, the lifestyle section of their MSN or Yahoo homepages, or the occasional Best Buy circular. They’re curious about Grammy nominations; they watch ‘American Idol.’ Their exposure to live music consists mainly of yearly treks to the Jimmy Buffet and/or ’80s package show. David Menconi, by the definition of his job, has to cater primarily to these folks.” And on the other side of that divide: “…your music diehards. They read and write year-end top tens, travel to the ends of the earth (or at least Slim’s, BCHQ and Nightlight) to catch bands, check in on Pitchfork, and waste their lunch breaks on message boards (ha). Grayson Currin writes primarily for these folks.”
Our industry in crisis
Our graphics department has got to be sweating it after The Charlotte Observer became the second large North Carolina daily newspaper in the last month to outsource the design of its display advertising to India and the Philippines. According to the Observer, the paper “will cut 25 of 41 jobs in its ad design group as it sends the work abroad, joining other large companies using foreign outsourcing to trim costs…. The deal is expected to save 35 to 40 percent on labor for the work.” Publisher Ann Caulkins called the decision “brutal.” Still… the thing’s going down. A relevant question was asked by our own designer Chris Lowrance: “Does anybody read this and think it’s a good thing? Besides economists, I mean.” It’s true that newspapers are no longer regarded as the true heart and soul of a community – if ever they were – but mark my words: When all of our news comes via reporters in Manila who write about events as they watch them on TV, you will all be very, very sorry.